AMS Spring 2023

Greece: Students 3D Print Operational Antikythera Mechanism

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In ‘Studying, designing, and 3D printing an operational model of the antikythera mechanism,’ authors Georgios Mavromanolakis, T Manousos, M Kechri, P. L. Kollia, G Kanellopoulos outline an educational project where students and teachers in Greece worked to design and fabricate a functional replica of the Antikythera mechanism—an intriguing and ancient relic thought to be the world’s first analog computer, created thousands of years ago. Because of its history, it is easy to see how such a design would grab the interest of STEM students just becoming interested in learning about 3D scanning, design, and printing.

STEM learning is alluring on its own—aside from the concept of creating a 2,100-year-old artifact with a fascinating and even mysterious background. The authors were able to pique the curiosity of their students with the story of a second-century B.C. ‘device’ that was found by divers in 1901, diving off Antikythera in Greece.

The level of sophistication in the mechanical device—one full of secrets, codes, and functions—allowed it to calculate astronomical data, along with information about the sun, the moon, and more. The students were hooked by the subject matter as they journeyed deep into the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The mechanism also predicted lunar and solar eclipses and displayed information on periodic events of social significance in the ancient world such as the Olympiad and other important Panhellenic Games. In a nutshell, the device is a mechanical realization of the scientific knowledge and understanding of the cosmos of that epoch,” state the authors. “It is internationally known as an artefact of unprecedented human ingenuity and scientific, historic and symbolic value. Since its discovery it has inspired scientists and engineers with its degree of technical and scientific sophistication.”

The STEM course—meant for students ages 15-18—was comprised of 20 sessions, split into five segments, begun in 2014, not required, and not involving any homework or outside responsibilities. The basic mission of the class was described as: ‘study, analyze, design and build/3D print an operational model of the Antikythera Mechanism.’ The five phases of the course were defined as follows:

  • Phase I – Study and analysis
  • Phase II – 3D design
  • Phase III – 3D printing
  • Phase IV – Assembly
  • Phase V – Presentation

Poster/leaflet about the course distributed and posted at the announcement boards of the school. Its main message line reads “study, analyse, design and build/3d print an operational model of the Antikythera Mechanism”.

Upon completion of the 3D printed device, the students celebrated the end of a complex project, discussing and reflecting on the process, along with delving into the different ways they were able to problem solve during the class. Afterward, they visited the National Archaeological Museum of Athens to see the fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism.

“In this course high school students are gradually introduced into the 3D printing technology, its applications and potential and are engaged in a challenging collaborative project in which they have to study, analyze, design and build an operational model of a renown ancient artefact, the Antikythera Mechanism,” concluded the authors. “To accomplish this, they acquire solid knowledge and understanding by inquiry and practice in a variety of curriculum subjects of physics, astronomy, mathematics, geometry, informatics, engineering/technology and also history and ancient Greek language.”

3D printing in the educational setting has proven time and again to be invaluable as students learn skills they can use in a career later, whether they choose to be engineers, scientists, artists, or endeavor to work in countless other fields. Today, it is rare that a student doesn’t know about 3D printing or have access to the software, hardware, and materials as classrooms around the world enjoy STEM programs related to studies of Mars, software programs geared toward educators, and a variety of different educational bundles.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

Students working on the design of the gears and the overall layout of the mechanism using open source CAD software (top). Highlight pictures/photos from the various phases of the course, (from left to right) the openscad user interface, designs of gears, the 3D printer in operation, examples of 3D print-outs (middle). General view of the completed operational model of the mechanism (bottom). It shows the astonishing complexity and sophistication of the real artefact which was designed and constructed in Ancient Greece two thousand years ago.

[Source / Images: ‘Studying, designing, and 3D printing an operational model of the antikythera mechanism’]

 

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